Copic Markers for Beginners – Absolute Basics

copic markers header image

I have a pretty decent collection of Copic markers which took me a few years to collect hidden in a box somewhere in my room, forgotten. Just recently, I dug them out and decided to give them a go again.

I remember colouring with the markers was very enjoyable. As it’s been quite some time since I used the markers last. I decided to go through the basics again to refresh my memories. In this post, I will be talking about the basic things you need to take note of when first starting using these markers.

What are they?

Copic markers are known to be the best quality alcohol markers on the market. They are free of toxic chemicals and nasty smells, thus are preferred than other marker brands. They are used in comics, manga, illustration, design, crafting and more

The first Copic marker, which was the classic marker, was produced in 1987 in Japan by Izumiya, now known as the TooMarker Products. They were specially made for designers. At that time, there were only 71 colours. As time went on, more colours were added to the classic markers. In the 1990s, different products were released such as the sketch, ciao, airbrush systems and multi-liners. From then on, even more colours and products were introduced for artists of all sorts to enjoy their marker experience more. eg:  paper, collection app, different coloured liners etc.

Types of Copic markers


image of a copic sketch marker

  • Has the widest range of colours available, 358 of them.
  • Has a brush nib at one end and a broad nib at the other.
  • Has an oval barrel to prevent it from rolling around and is comfortable to hold.


image of a copic ciao marker

  • Available in 180 different colours
  • A cheaper alternative to the sketch markers, but holds less ink than the sketch markers
  • Like the sketch, it also has a brush nib and a broad nib at the tips
  • Has a round barrel, it has a slight bump on the cap but is still prone to rolling about.


image of copic classic marker

  • The original classic marker is available in 214 colours
  • Contains the most ink compared to the other types of markers
  • Has a broad nib and a fine point nib at the tips
  • Has a square barrel.


image of copic wide marker

  • Only has 36 colours
  • Has a 3/4 inch wide nib at one end.
  • Has a flat barrel

Colouring System

Understanding the colouring system will help you pick your colours easier. It is also important for beginners when they first start collecting colours. As the markers are pretty expensive, it is recommended to buy colours that are used the most and not buy colours that are rarely used, thus saving you some precious money. Starting colours vary depending on the kind of drawing you’re planning to create. The colouring system also lets you organise and manage your colours easily as well. For example, if you draw faces most of the time, you will be collecting lots of skin colour markers.

On each marker, there is a name for the colour and letters followed by numbers as shown below:

image of copic colouring system

The letters

The letters tell you which colour family the marker belong to.

Colour families

B = blue, G = green, R = red, Y = yellow, V = violet, E = earth and their combinations such as BG = blue green, RV = red violet etc.

Grey family

C = cool grey, T = Toner grey, N = Neutral grey, W = Warm grey

Fluorescent colours

Contains 8 different fluorescent colours

The numbers

There are usually 2 numbers after the letters.

The first number represents the saturation of the colour, as known as the purity of the colour. 0 being the most saturated and 9 being the least saturated.

The second number represents the brightness of the colour. 0 being the brightest and 9 being the darkest.

The colourless blender

The colourless blender, as the name suggests, has no colour. It is used to fix mistakes such as bleeding of colours and used for various colouring techniques.


Before you start colouring away, you should be aware of the type of paper you are using. Using Copic markers on certain kind of paper may lead to colour bleeding, ink wastage and you won’t be able to use them to their full ability.

Different kinds of paper will produce different kinds of results. For example, watercolour paper will suck your marker dry very quickly and it will be difficult to blend the colours. Paper with rough surfaces may damage the marker nib if not careful.

There are marker papers, sketchbooks and blending cards designed for Copic markers.


Another thing to watch out for is the pen you use if you plan to line your artwork before colouring in with the markers. Some pens may need time for the ink to dry before colouring or else the lines may smudge. I suggest testing out your pens on a piece of paper and run a marker over the pen lines a few times to see if it smudges. Of course, different paper may affect the time it takes to dry the ink and the degree in which the lines smudges when coloured over.

Nib replacements and ink refills

Don’t you just hate it when your pen or markers run out of ink or when the tip/ nibs are damaged? Well lucky for you, the nibs of the markers can be replaced. So instead of buying a new marker, you can just replace the nib and not waste any remaining ink in the marker with the damaged nib.

Refills are available for the markers too. One bottle of refill only cost around twice the price as a marker and it can refill the marker several times!

That’s it

So these are the basic information you need to know when starting with this medium. In the future, I will be posting more detailed posts on topics related to Copic markers, such as how to choose colours, blending techniques, and more!

I hope you enjoyed reading this post.

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7 Responses

  1. Interesting article. I am a lover of crafts, but obviously don’t do a lot of coloring in, otherwise I would have heard of Copic markers. The look ideal, and I thought to myself it is amazing that you had them packed away for so long and when you took them out again, they still worked 100%.

    I love the way they are marked with the letters symbolizing the type of color family that they belong to. I also love the pretty pastel colors that they come in, which you don’t see often in a marking pen.

    I can imagine that these must be great to use instead of pencils when it comes to coloring in, and I think I am going to pick out some colors for myself right now, especially as you say that they don’t have that alcohol odor when you use them.

    1. I was alittle surprised that they still worked after not being used for such a long time too! Have fun with the markers 😀 The markers does still have some alcohol smell but compared to most other brands Copic markers are not as strong. 

  2. Great post and good info!

    My wife is actually looking for them, because the class she teaches in, doesn’t have any of them anymore and it is kind of hard to find good ones.

    Why? Look around, theyre full of toxic ingredients, and that is what we don’t want when we are with children, right?

    It is nice you come up with one that doesn’t have any toxic ingredient, so my wife will be happy!

    I will show her this post, many thanks!

  3. Many thanks for your awesome article, great insights. I am going to pick up the Ciao type to try out, I love that it’s a cheaper alternative and will serve me well. It’s great that I can just replace the nib instead of refilling ink, comes in handy for me. Thanks again and best regards

  4. Amazing Mary Li!   Your topic of Copic Markers is a complete instruction sheet for every person on earth. Subject, concrete and business instruction. If this person is still a child, then his parents should print out and keep close this your article. 

    I will do it. I decided to tell you in confidence that I have an indirect relationship to artists. My brother has a studio on the island of New York, he is 85. And the grandson changes his Facebook covers. I have the pleasure of exploring your site. Thank You. Mark

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